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Spam continues to dip but malware marches merrily on

Spam may be down, but cybercriminals are keeping busy launching more sophisticated attacks (PDF), according to McAfee's latest Threats Report.

Looking at 2011's final quarter, McAfee found that spam hit its lowest level in years, especially across popular targets such as the U.K., Brazil, Argentina, and South Korea. But the U.S. and Germany saw their rates inch up slightly.

And though spam levels have declined overall, junk mail is still a clear danger because of the increase in spearphishing, or more targeted attacks. In years past, spammers sent their payloads to a slew of random addresses, hoping to ensnare at least a small percentage of users. But now address lists are more accurate, says McAfee.

Botnets, or computers tricked into running malicious software, surged in growth in November and December following a drop since August. A few countries saw a decline in botnet activity, but most experienced a significant jump.

Among the current varieties of botnets, Cutwail remains the most prominent, while Lethic has been on the decline, the report noted.

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